Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Rebranding! (And: Skillshare is awesome)

I've been taking several classes on Skillshare. It's pretty awesome for those in design, media, fashion, etc. I've finished a class about branding and another about speciality printing techniques, and I'm currently taking ones about responsive web design, business models, and 3d printing. Will I use all these in daily life?  No, but it's nice to know about things.

Anyway, I thought I'd share the results of my branding class with you guys.  I've been wanting to re-do my Trillium Arts branding and website for a while, and this gave me a really good start.  It began with the creative brief. Following that I came up with the rest of the parts, culminating with my full brand presentation.

Here's some jpg's of the presentation (some of the white backgrounds came out grey in the jpgs when I uploaded them to blogger, which is just weird, but whatever).  Let me know what you think!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Social anxiety disorder OR how I didn't really learn to stop worrying at all

OK, this is going to be another one of those personal posts, so if you don't want to read mushy boring *feelings* stuff, please feel free to skip.

I battle social anxiety every single day (on top of anxiety disorder and panic attacks generally). This is something I've dealt with my whole life. The phone is absolutely terrifying. Face to face interaction is incredibly scary (even if I know you ), and small talk is just straight up beyond me. If you take my pulse during any social interaction, you'll find it's usually about 100 bpm.

The crappy thing is, I want to interact with other people.  I love when people tell me about their lives, when they share where they've been and what they do, and what they want to do.  I revel in the exchange of ideas. But the whole time I'm holding myself from bolting (and here I'll say: bless the internet and facebook for the buffering it adds; it allows me to interact without freaking out.)

Most of my life I've dealt with this by forcing myself to go a little over the top - be a little loud, work a little harder, party a little bigger. I do have some fun at social gatherings, but they also drain me completely. I am constantly trying to think of things to say and trying to do the right thing, and I rarely manage to relax in a social situation.  I force myself to do things and go outside my comfort zone constantly -- you know, like leaving the house to go to the grocery store.

But it's really hard. So here's where I say: please help me. Understand that I'm scared. Try to get me out to do things. Talk to me even when I'm not talking to you, because I literally *can't* do small talk.

Thanks for reading, and all the *hugs*

Monday, February 03, 2014

Book recommendations!

I've been on a total female protagonist kick.  This list ranges from the great to the guilty pleasure, and it is mostly fairly light reading material, but I've enjoyed it.

First, The Night Circus.  A period piece about a magic circus and the "game of chess" that is played out in it, with living people. The descriptions in this are so good, and the descriptions of the circus are sooo good... I just wish it was real.  Holy cow. Seriously, go read this, right now.

Keeping with the circus theme, but with a lot more sex, violence, and faeries, (and less brillance in the writing, I admit) there is the The Immortal Circus (Cirque des Immortels) trilogy.  These books are being written as Kindle Serials, and right now we're in the middle of the third book. If you like dark faerie stories and can take the lightness of the story, it's great junk food reading.  I'm loving it, even if it is a guilty pleasure - like chocolate truffles, there's not much in the way of nutrition, but it sure is delicious. Oh, and almost all the major characters are women, which is rather wonderful.

 Last, and I'm only halfway though but I'm enjoying it immensely, Timebound (The Chronos Files). Time travel with a female protagonist?  I think I can name the number of books that deal with that on one hand! The treatment of the possible dangers and paradoxes of time travel in this book are brilliant (and it may have some not terribly subtle but very good commentary on certain religions and their treatment of temporal rather than spiritual or even ethical matters).  Written for a young adult audience, it's much more tame that the Immortal Circus series, but very well written. 


Sunday, February 02, 2014

What to blog about...

I'm honestly not sure what I want this blog to be.  Obviously I post pictures/how to's of projects on here, from design to cooking.  I know not many people read the blog, but my most popular posts are strictly limited to visual design - my Obama D20, descriptions of why I really enjoy certain artists, deriding of the XFL jerseys.

I enjoy posting about my original work, like my coffee table, all my recipes, my salt smoking basket, my steampunk house numbers (I want to add some of my leatherworking too; I've got a couple of projects I'm going to be starting in the next couple of months that I think are pretty exciting).  But those draw far less views.

So, for the few, the dedicated, the people who read my blog... what do you want me to write about?  Please?  And thanks in advance.

All the *hugs*

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sichuan braised pork

OK, this is not an authentic Sichuan recipe.  I made it up.  I think the flavors are true to authentic Sichuan, but it's still done in a sort of Wisconsin way.

Sichuan braised pork:
3-5 lbs pork roast, cut into 2 inch chunks
3 cups pork or chicken stock (I recommend pork stock, can be found as a concentrate at asian groceries)
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sweetened rice vinegar
1/4 cup Shaoxing wine
2 tablespoons sichuan peppercorns
1 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2-3 chinese hot pepper pods, ground (or 1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 tablespoons cornstarch in 3 tablespoons water (leave until end to make)

Peanut sauce:
1/4 cup natural (unsweetened, unsalted) peanut butter
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon 5 spice powder
1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine (optional, but it adds a nice smokey flavor)
1 tablespoon soy sauce

Roast the peppercorns in a small, dry pan over medium heat until they are lightly smokey and fragrant, and then grind in a spice grinder.  Combine all ingredients except pork and cornstarch mixture.

Method 1 (using a Wonderbag slow cooker): heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a enameled cast iron pot (7 1/2 quart works well).  Put pork pieces in to brown.  Brown on all sides, then add stock mixture.  Cook, covered tightly, over medium flame until boiling, place in Wonderbag 6-8 hours.  Heat oven to 350. Take pot out of Wonderbag and cook for one hour in oven, then shred pork, and continue cooking for another 30 minutes.  Take out of oven and put on stove, add cornstarch mixture and stir.

Method 2 (traditional slow cooker): heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan.  Put pork pieces in to brown.  Brown on all sides, move to slow cooker, add stock mixture.  Cook 8-10 hours on high. Add cornstarch mixture and stir.

Method 3 (oven):  Heat oven to 350.  Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a enameled cast iron pot (7 1/2 quart works well).  Put pork pieces in to brown.  Brown on all sides, then add stock mixture.  Cook 6(ish) hours, then remove pot and shred pork.  Cook one hour until liquid has been reduced about half. Take out of oven and put on stove, add cornstarch mixture and stir.

Serve over/with white rice and steamed broccoli, with peanut sauce in a bowl on the table, and sriracha available.

Peanut sauce:
Mix together peanut butter, sugar, and five spice powder. 

Add wine and soy sauce and mix thoroughly.

Add enough water, 3-4 tablespoons, for a ranch-dressing like consistency.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Wisconsin cassoulet

I've made cassoulet before, from a recipe. The most recent time I decided to do away with other's recipes and go with what made sense to me.  Cassoulet at its base is a French peasant dish of pork, duck, beans, and fat; there are many fancy versions. This is a Wisconsin version of cassoulet by way of cajun country - the duck, for instance, would work very well with a tough or small wild bird (you don't want to waste a large, tender duck breast); you can use beer and bratwurst or white wine and andouille; instead of pork rind and fresh side pork we use a nice smoky bacon.  You're going to need something large to cook this in; at least a 7 1/2 quart enameled cast iron pot, or two smaller 5 quart pots.  It still takes three days, although confit lasts a REALLY long time and you could conceivably do this over a period of weeks.

Duck confit:
1 duck
2 tablespoons salt (kosher works well)
2 tablespoons ground thyme
Enough duck fat to cover duck in cooking vessel (if you can't get duck fat, use light olive oil or if you can, lard)

Shredded meat from duck confit
1 lb bacon
2 lbs fatty pork roast
2 lbs pork hocks
2 andouille sausages or cooked bratwurst
4 cups yellow eye beans (if you're reading this in northern WI, I get mine at Prairie Pines store in Gleason)
4 cups chicken broth
2 medium yellow onions
4 cloves garlic
2 medium carrots
1 quart tomato puree
1 cup white wine or 1 cup pilsner
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon oregeno
3 cups breadcrumbs (panko or gluten free)
1 cup duck fat (again, if you can't get duck fat, use light olive oil or if you can, lard)

Day 1: Prepare the duck

Debone the duck - it's very similar to deboning a chicken.  The wings on a duck are better developed than a chicken, and you'll definitely want them.  At this point you should remove the skin - many recipes keep it, but I like to shred the duck so there's no bones in the final product, and you can render down the skin for the wonderful, wonderful fat.  Mix together the salt and thyme and cover the chicken pieces with the mix. If your duck comes with a neck and/or gizzard, include them. Put them in a glass bowl and leave them covered in the fridge overnight.

Day 2: Confit the duck, prepare the beans

Pre-heat the oven to 250. Wash the salt off the pieces of duck and arrange them in a oven-safe container, and cover with duck fat.  Bake for 6-8 hours, until meat is soft and falling off the bone.  Remove from oven and allow to cool; do not remove from the fat.  Leave it out overnight - the fat will keep the duck fresh.

While the duck is confiting, put the beans in a large bowl and cover them with water, with 2-3" of water above the beans.  Let sit overnight.

Day 3: Make the cassoulet

Mix together the paprika, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, and oregeno. Chop the onion, garlic, and carrots finely; roughly chop the bacon.  In the enameled cast iron pot add the onion, garlic, carrots and bacon, sauteing until lightly caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Add the wine or beer and cook over a medium heat for 5 more minutes.  Add the tomato juice, one teaspoon of the spice mix, and the beans and their water.  Bring to a simmer and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occationally.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Cut the pork roast into 2 inch chunks and sprinkle with spice mixture; sprinkle pork hocks with spice mixture.  Dig the duck out of the fat and shred it, taking care to not get any bones into the meat.  Heat a pan (I like cast iron for searing) over a high heat with a little duck fat, and sear the pork hocks and chunks of pork until they are browned, then transfer to the beans.  Deglaze the pan with the chicken broth and add to the beans.  Cut sausage into 1" chunks and add, and add the shredded duck meat.  Stir to incorporate everything, pour all but a couple of tablespoons of remaining duck fat over the top.  Bake in oven with no lid for 3 1/2 hours, remove pork hocks, take meat off the bones, return the meat to the bean mixture.  Cover the bean mixture with the breadcrumbs and pour the remaining duck fat over the top, and return to the oven for a final hour.  Serve with a crusty french bread or enjoy as is.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A kitchen manifesto

Recently I was catching up on the episodes of "No Reservations" I had not gotten to see. If you know me, you know how I'm enthralled and inspired by this show, which happens to be about two of my favorite subjects, traveling and eating. Anyway, in the particular episode I was watching, Anthony heads down to Cajun country (and of course has some truly spectacular and delicious looking food, especially the pork).  He mentions that Creole and Cajun cooking is really the only truly American cuisine.

This got me thinking about the dishes I cook, the dishes I was raised with, and what I want to do with my cooking.  Now, I love my mom with all my heart, and she really is a spectacular cook, I just managed to grow up strongly disliking most of the popular dishes in our area (and house) - things like tuna casserole, meatloaf, Tony Mazetti, taco casserole... basically anything that contained meat and came in a 9x16 pan.  I still can't stand this type of food.  That's my particular weirdness.

What I tend to cook start as international dishes - I'll try to make something very authentic, at least the first time.  I'm realizing now, however, that that is not what American cuisine is. We take things and we bastardize them - and it sometimes results in beauty (I'm looking at you, Chicago deep dish pizza).  And that's ok, as long as the result is wonderful.  That's what all great cooking cultures have done -- Japan didn't have tempura until the Portuguese came; Pho is a wonderful remnant of the French in Vietnam.  It's only too bad that most of what is known as American cuisine is bastardized food from other lands that just adds fat and makes it incredibly heavy (I side eye you Olive Garden).  Yes, there is the whole "fusion" thing, but it seems artificial.  Cuisine should adapt to ingredients available naturally.

I hope in my cooking that I can achieve a balance; I will bastardize, as in my Salt & Pepper Elk (which is quite a way away from its inspiration), but I will try to make the food about balance and not just add a ton of fat.  I will continue exploring new cuisines, tastes, and textures, and adapting them to fit my family. I will travel and gain inspiration from which I will come up with new ideas. I will bequeath recipes to my children and grandchildren in the hopes that they will use them as a base to start from and continue to develop.

Someday we will have an American cuisine, and it will be a glorious bastardized mishmash of all our influences.  Sort of like America itself.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Chicken Quenelles in Parmesan Sauce

This one is being put up by popular demand.  It makes a large (6-8 servings at least) amount of light and fluffy chicken quenelles, and they make amazing leftovers.

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 8 oz old bread or breadcrumbs
  • 5 cups heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
Bechamel sauce
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 gallon milk
  • 4 oz parmesan
Top with
  • 4 oz parmesan
You can make the quenelles and sauce in either order, but I prefer to make the bechamel sauce first, and put it to the side while I make the quenelles.

Bechamel sauce:
Heat milk over medium low heat to steaming.  In a medium/large saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  When butter is bubbling, add flour and stir for about a minute.  Switch to a whisk and begin adding milk a little at a time, incorporating it fully.  Once all the milk is added, contine stiring until mixture thickens, about 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to low and allow to simmer, whisking  occationally, 10 more minutes.  Add parmesan, set aside (occationally stiring to incorporate cheese into the sauce)

If breadcrumbs are hard, soak in milk beforehand.  Combine chicken breasts, breadcrumbs, cream, milk, eggs, salt and pepper in the bowl of a food processor (If necessary divide into two batches). Process until a smooth, fluffy mixture is obtained.  Bring a pot of salted water to a simmer. Use a soup spoon to scoop out quenelles, shape (should be roughly egg shaped; they don't come out perfectly every time, they'll still taste good), and drop into water, about 6-10 at a time (I've done up to 15 at once in a very large pot).  Cook for 6 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon (to allow water to drain) to a 9"x16" pan.  Repeat until all of the chicken mixture has been used, and two 9"x16" pans have been filled.  Pour Bechamel sauce in even amounts over both pans, and sprinkle with parmesan. If you want at this point the pans can be set aside and finished later, or even the next day if you heat them in the oven before broiling. Put in oven under broiler, with rack in the middle, for about 10 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Serve with a side of fresh fettucini or cheese tortellini and sauteed spinach.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lifestyle? What does that even mean?

Yeah, this is a pretty awesome outfit,
and I needed a pic to go with
the story.
Photo by Joeri Stegeman (Original)
I really don't like the word "lifestyle." It's applied to so many things; how you decorate your home, the group you identify yourself as a part of, it's even used as a pejorative in cases where people talk about "alternative lifestyles" (usually a euphemism for being gay or transgender -- which is not a "lifestyle choice", it's how you were born -- isn't science GREAT?).

But seriously, I know many people that need to identify with a "lifestyle" -- and I don't even really get what that means. I know gym rats who look down on people who are overweight, saying that they are choosing the lifestyle of being "a couch potato." I know business people who look down on people who have tattoos, thinking they must be scummy.  I know people that have tattoos who look down on people who don't have them, or don't have the "right" ones, saying they're wimps or posers.  It all comes back to "you're not as good as me because I've decided to follow this one idea that is called a lifestyle and dictates almost all my choices." Of course, there's always someone who feels that they more purely represent a lifestyle than you and are better than you for it.  How many times have you heard that someone was a poser?

I just don't get it.

I mean, yes, I self identify as a nerd, but that doesn't mean that it's my lifestyle and that I have a right to police everyone else who calls themselves nerds -- or even that I can only enjoy certain things and still call myself a nerd.  I identify as woman too, and that also doesn't give me the right to say what defines womanhood for absolutely everyone who is a woman, and I don't let myself be boxed in by someone else's definition of what a woman should be.

I haven't picked a single way of defining myself and  limited myself to that specific definition. I can't imagine how boring that would be. 

I don't have a "lifestyle." I have a life, and I have style, but they are each my own.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Movie theater seats, pt.3

Well, after an extended bout of plague at our house, we finally managed to get the theater seats done.  We drilled holes at the marks and used a counter sink to make sure the bolts wouldn't be touching the floor.  Unfortunately I didn't get an action shot of this.  We then brought the wood back inside and I used carpet glue to... well, glue the carpet on.
I insist on animals being in all my shots.
Once the carpet glue had set overnight, we flipped it over and cut of the corners of the rug, and glued the overlap down.

No books were harmed in the gluing of this carpet.

Obviously we needed some weight to hold the overlap down, but fortunately we have a few books lying around.  Again, after a 24 hr cure, we removed the books and used a screwdriver to poke holes in the carpet for the bolts.  At this point we discovered that the bolts we had purchased were too short (we had neglected to take the depth of the carpet into account) so Josh made a run to ace to get longer bolts.  Fortunately they had them, so we stuck them through the plywood, put some felt pads over them (for extra no-scratch insurance) and turned the whole thing over.  Then we carefully picked up the chairs and lowered (forced) them onto their bolts.  Then everyone took turns tightening.

Duncan ponders doing parkour on the installed seats.
After the bolts were well tightened (I'm guessing we'll have to go back with locktite at some point, but...), we moved the chairs into their new place of honor, just waiting for the next wrestling PPV or Packers game -- a little bit of the Cosmo Theatre in our own home.